The Los Angeles-based sextet, RACES, had a great 2011, which found the band signing with French Kiss Records, playing numerous shows in its hometown, and geared up for a record release. But last year was just a push for what the indie-folk outfit has in store in 2012. Not only is the six-piece’s debut full-length, Year of the Witch, slated for a March 27th release, but the harmonious troupe has spent the first part of 2012 on tour, opening for El Ten Eleven, performing at SXSW, and slated for a West Coast tour with NO in support of the record release. While on the road, RACES found the time to chat with me about life on the road, the origin of the band’s name, and what LA groups to keep on your radar.
Katrina Nattress: You guys are in the midst of a national tour with El Ten Eleven right now, how does it feel to be on the road?
Garth Herberg: Being on the road is a drastic lifestyle change. You travel light and are constantly meeting up with and leaving behind old friends and new. In a way it’s really therapeutic because you’re forced to let go of your surroundings every day. I’ve come to accept that being in the van for hours, playing to new crowds every day, and sleeping wherever I can is what I want to be doing right now. You have to be willing to put up without some creature comforts and personal space in order to get the high of performing and pushing the band forward. I consider everyone in the band to be a good friend and awesome human being. We’re still getting to know each other and getting used to being confined, but so far I’m feeling great about where we’re at and what we’re doing.
Devon Lee: Touring is not glamorous, but it is beyond fun. The hours of driving, sleeping in strangers’ beds, not eating properly and dealing with unexpected weather conditions (ie. driving in a blizzard), all fall away once I am on stage. The bond I feel with the band is meaningful up there. We could have just bitched and moaned ten minutes before playing, but all of that tour stress means nothing when people are enjoying our live performance! Plus, on this particular tour, we are surrounded by the awesome dudes and crew of El Ten Eleven. I am grateful to be opening for them every night.
KN: What’s been the highlight of the tour thus far?
Lucas Ventura: Wade and I busting each others' faces open with snowballs in Aspen.
GH: The New Parish show in Oakland was fantastic. We played to a great crowd of people. It totally exceeded my expectations.
KN: What I love about your live performances is the band’s energy--the songs really come alive. What do you hope your fans get out of seeing you live?
Oliver Hild: A feeling of the need to give us their money. This stuff is hard.
Wade Ryff: A momentary escape from the day to day.
Bre Wood: A common response we get is about the energy we give off while playing. That's been the greatest compliment so far. It's really all about how we can make the crowd feel and the impression we leave.
KN: What do you think is the most important factor in a band’s live performance?
GH: Bill Hicks put it like this, “Play from your f%$ing heart!”
KN: When you first began, your band was called “Black Jesus.” What caused the name change?
WR: A new phase.
KN: Why did you go with “RACES?”
LV: Syd from Frenchkiss has a “Drunk List of Bandnames”. We were flustered and couldn’t come up with a good replacement for “Black Jesus”, so he helped us out with that one.
KN: How long have the six of you been playing music together?
BW: A few of us have been playing together for many years. As a band we all gathered in a practice studio for the first time a few days before our first show. Some of us never having met before. We played music that night and I think we all felt an instant connection.
KN: French Kiss signed RACES when you guys had nothing but a 7” released. How do you feel this instant signing affected the direction of the band (if at all)?
WR: I think the biggest change is that everyone is more dedicated to the band now. Before [French Kiss] came around some members were still playing in other bands and treating RACES as more of a side project. It has pushed the band as a whole to work a lot harder together.
KN: Tell me about the writing/recording process of Year of The Witch.
WR: At that point in time, the band didn’t meet all that much. I would mostly write the songs, and then bring them to Garth. He and I would work out arrangements for the backup vocals or work on structure and then bring stuff into the band room. After we had a bunch of songs, we would go into the studio, (which was a warehouse for a concrete company that belonged to a friend of Oliver’s) a couple times a month and record the songs we had. We didn’t know we were making an album when we started. Oliver would engineer all the sessions and he and I produced it together. At a certain point we realized we had an album and got Niko Bolas to mix the record out of his room at Capitol Records. That was real exciting... getting to be in Capitol Records use the same Echo Chambers that Frank Sinatra used.
KN: Do you feel like being signed caused a larger amount of pressure on the release?
LV: It's made us have to wait longer for it to come out. I think the pressure comes in all the stuff that comes along with releasing an album. Touring, promoting, and the business elements that musicians are not inherently good at...
KN: There are a lot of bands in the L.A. area, what do you think makes Races stand out from the rest?
OH: We have a song about the Lakers' Metta World Peace.
KN: Which L.A. bands should we be listening to right now?
WR: I heard some of Aaron Embry’s new music and was blown away. I always find myself coming back to Blake Mills too. He’s one of my favorite songwriters.
LV: Hit City Records in L.A. has a bunch of great bands on their roster. Superhumanoids, PAPA, and Princeton are all bands I think are great. NO is another great group.
BW: I always have a great time watching So Many Wizards perform. I just love their sound. As Lucas said, PAPA is a great band with a great EP "A Good Woman Is Hard To Find".
KN: What can we expect from Races in 2012?
WR: More shows, more songs, more money, more problems.